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Top 10 (or 12) 2013 Predictions

As 2012 comes to a close, it’s time to make predictions for next year. With no election, I at first thought it might be difficult to come up with predictions, but as I began to write down some ideas, I found that there is indeed a lot going on worthy of discussion. Unfortunately, I am anticipating a difficult 2013, in large part driven by political uncertainty here and abroad. Here goes:

10 – Regardless of how the current fiscal cliff negotiations end (I am thinking there will be a small deal to get us through either just before or just after Dec. 31), no grand bargain will take place next year – on either tax reform or entitlement reform. Obama’s continued campaigning to rally public support for his ideas has ensured that Republicans will do almost anything to block him next year. Not saying that this behavior is right – it’s just inevitable.

9 – The one area where we will see major legislation is immigration reform. The Republicans desperately need an image boost here, and so this is the one exception where the two parties will work together to pass something. (Given the events in Newtown next week, there will be some movement on gun control, perhaps a ban on assault weapons, but more far-reaching gun control will be hard to attain.)

8 – The Euro crisis will deepen once again after a relatively quiet 2012. Italian elections could become a farce, and Greece, Spain and Portugal remain trouble spots. I don’t see any exits from the Euro in 2013, but I do expect more dissent from the populaces of the Northern European countries.

7 – By the end of 2013 Hillary Clinton will strongly signal (if not outright declare) her intention to run for President in 2016.

6 – Merkel will win re-election in Germany, but her victory will be very small and her party will be weakened as German voters show their displeasure over the continued drain the Euro crisis is having on the country.

5 – The stock market will be down for the year, perhaps by 10%. I think January is going to be a very tough month as realty sets in that the country’s finances are in real trouble. Even if the fiscal cliff is partially solved, it will hit home that tax rates are going to go up (in part because of some of the provisions of Obamacare going into effect) and people will realize that the recovery is not as strong as believed. Encouraging employment numbers will reverse, and the reality will set in that the numbers have been skewed by more people leaving the work force – which is not a positive sign.

4 – The US economy will not go into a major ┬árecession, though it may come close and may even technically experience a minor recession. As stated above, I see growth slowing. I also see declines in consumer sentiment and business confidence, but I don’t think the slowdown will be enough to push us into a major downdraft.

Specifically for financial services:

3 – I do see a major deal being announced among the major wirehouses – Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like – perhaps a bank selling off its wealth management division – but something major is going to take place.

2 – I see continued consolidation in the asset management arena, with a number of major deals being announced. Firms will continue to find it hard to go it alone, and will benefit from the operational synergies of combining forces.

1 – RIAs will continue to make news by taking advisors from the wirehouses, but I think the wirehouses will hold their own and have a pretty decent year. The negative news about the brokerage arms of these institutions will continue to abate.

Those are my top ten – but as I am doing them – I realize that I have to add two more:

11 – While I don’t see major changes to Dodd/Frank, I do think the banks are going to be beat-up on by Elizabeth Warren in her new role on the Senate Banking Committee. Bashing banks seems to be in vogue, and perhaps if my other predictions of other major legislation getting bogged down come true, the Democrats might use the banks as their way to show how tough they are.

12 – Alabama will win the BCS Championship and the 49ers the Super Bowl. You can’t have predictions without sports, now can you?

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